Original article by Elizabeth Gigis, DVM, West Chester Veterinary Center , August, 2011
The summer is definitely upon us! This means vacations, trips to the pool, and other fun summer activities for most of us. It can, however, be a dangerous time for your pet if precautions are not taken. One major cause of health issues for pets during the summer is heat related injuries. Heat stroke is a condition where a dog’s body temperature rises above 105. A normal body temperature for a dog is less than 102.5. Heat stroke can occur in indoor dogs not acclimated to extreme heat when outside for only 10-15 minutes. The humidity is also a complicating factor. A type of dog that is over-represented is the brachycephalic or “short-faced” dog, such as pugs and bulldogs. These dogs have a smaller diameter airway, so much more work is required for a short faced dog to pass the same amount of air to get cool. As a result, these dogs get anxious, and the airways become inflamed or swollen. This leads to a vicious cycle of increased anxiety and more swelling.
Dogs that are “outdoor dogs” during the summer should always have access to shade. A children’s wading pool is a good idea also, and can be purchased at most major retailers for less than twenty dollars. Remember to change the water regularly. It is important to note that a dog left in a car (even if the windows are cracked) can develop heatstroke, often in only five minutes.
It is very important for you to be aware of how your dog has been outside, and always monitor him for early signs of heat injury during these summer months. Let’s review some of the common signs of heatstroke. Dogs pass air quickly over the tongue through panting. Saliva is evaporated from the tongue as air passes across, and this cools the blood circulating through the tongue. This blood is circulated to the rest of the body. If this mechanism is not sufficient for cooling, the body temperature will rise and you will begin to see the beginnings of a heat stroke. First, the dog will increase his panting, and then begin to salivate. He may lie down and refuse to get up. His mucous membranes or gums will begin to look “muddy” or bluish purple, instead of pink. The pet may also vomit or have diarrhea. In severe cases, dogs can lose consciousness and have seizures as the brain overheats. It is important to note that heatstroke can cause severe damage to all major internal organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and brain. Heat stroke also causes problems with the clotting factors inside the dog’s blood stream, a severe and life-threatening condition called “DIC”. Even if your dog recovers from the initial heat injury, he can be left with a lifelong condition that may require treatment.
If you suspect your dog may have heatstroke, it’s important to institute some basic first aid procedures, and then take him to a veterinarian immediately. Bring your dog inside and immediately begin to spray him off with cool water. Also apply rubbing alcohol to his paw pads. Do not apply ice packs to the skin or hair, as this can cause blood vessels in the skin to constrict, moving the blood away from the skin, and prevents cooling. At your veterinarian’s office, your dog will likely be treated with IV fluids, oxygen therapy and other medications as needed depending on the severity of the heat injury. A heat stroke can have a mortality rate of up to fifty percent even if treated appropriately. Early treatment is critical to success and has a direct impact on your dogs outcome. Of course, prevention is the best cure!
Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.
If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular heart disease can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.